I called by the Pangu Party HQ at Korobosia this afternoon to drop off a letter from the Bishop.
I was met by minders at the gate who told me that the Member was not inside, while others outside told me that the Member was. I persisted and finally got through to some gentleman on the inside of the gate to give the letter to the Member, and to tell him that it is official correspondence from the Bishop, dated 20/09/17. I left frustrated and wondering what is going on with the Member since his election in August. I am left wondering too whether or not the Member will actually get handed this letter from his minders.
With permission of the Bishop I am now posting excerpts from this letter, as the issues raised by the Bishop are pressing matters of public concern. (Anthony Morant, you might like to post this on the Goilala Development Blog.)
I have been wanting to meet with you since the confirmation of your election back in August to firstly congratulate you on your election victory and to discuss with you matters of common concern in the delivery of services to Goilala in keeping with Government Policy of Church-State partnership. I have asked my Chancellor, Fr Brian Cahill to arrange such a meeting, however to date his numerous phone calls and text messages have met with no reply. Thus I am writing to you now requesting an urgent meeting at the earliest……. Specific matters I would like to discuss with you are as follows:
(1) TAPINI (MONA) HWY
We have a critical situation facing the delivery of services at Tapini with the immanent closure of the Tapini Hwy. This vital link to the coast has barely held open this year to small 4WD vehicles, such as landcruisers. The condition of the road is truly appalling, and dangerous in places. The Health and Education Services at Tapini have been totally reliant this year on one landcruiser which was bought at the start of this year by the high school, with assistance provided by the parish landcruiser when Fr Brian travels from Port Moresby to Tapini. Vehicles can only carry 600kg of cargo given the road’s present condition, and the damage to the undercarriages of these vehicles each time they travel has seen a large increase in vehicle maintenance costs. Not to forget the human cost of health and well-being to the driver’s and their off-siders.
With this, there has been no assistance provided from the district. All the public servants from the CEO down, are absent from Tapini. Government officers only appear the day before some event is to take place with dignitaries flying in the next day. They are in their vehicles and back down the highway the same day once the dignitaries fly out in the afternoon. They show no apparent interest in the running of the station and the delivery of services. They show no real interest in the condition of the road as it is not a matter of survival for them. They don’t live at Tapini. These officers all lodge down in Port Moresby where they drive around in the district vehicles at the expense of the district. While there is actually nothing in terms of Government enterprise happening on the ground at Tapini in building up the place. The Church is there on its own struggling to keep alive vital services of health and education to the population.
I do not wish to apportion blame on government authorities as to why the highway has been allowed to come to this present state. And I am not interested in hearing about submissions for highway maintenance that will be months away into next year before anything can possibly happen. That will be too late. What is required in the immediate is an emergency response from Government, with the Member and CEO taking the lead to get something happening now to get machines operating on the road to do necessary maintenance works in the worst sections in order to avoid the definite closure of the road. (I point out the Works machinery sent up for maintenance before the election has been sitting idle in a village near Bakioudu since the election in August doing nothing!)
The Tapini Hwy has remained open till now because of the dry season weather. However this window of opportunity will close once weather patterns change as we move towards the wet season, and the likelihood of heavy rains in December. Now is the time for action by sensible people to avoid what is surely a looming catastrophe.
When the road closes Sacred Heart High School will have to send its 340 students home as we will not be able to keep them at the school without a means of supply. Unless there is budget provision by way of a Government Grant for air charter, the 2018 academic year looks bleak if the road is not open as the school will be totally reliant on air charter. Unless such a grant is forthcoming, this puts into doubt whether or not the school will actually operate at all next year. The cost of a twin otter charter is K8,000 for 1.5ton. The school will require a minimum of 12 charters a term. That works out at being K8,000 x 12 x 4 terms = K384,000.
Likewise, closure of the road will impact severely on the operation of the OLSH Health Centre at Tapini, and will see a cut back services.
I will be travelling up to Tapini on the 5th October for the weekend of the Grade 10 Graduation at the high school, scheduled for Saturday 7th October 2017. I will be travelling by road, if it is still open to experience first-hand what our people are suffering. You are welcome to travel with me if you wish for this occasion.
(2) DEVELOPMENT ON CATHOLIC MISSION LAND / ALTERATION TO CATHOLIC MISSION OWN FACILITY / NEGATIVE IMPACT TO THE OPERATION OF SCHOOLS
In this next section of his letter, the Bishop goes on to talk about instances of development that has taken place on Catholic Mission Land in the previous term, and alterations made to Catholic Mission facility without permission having first been obtained from him as Head of the Diocese of Bereina. He also talks about what has been negative impact on our schools through the Member’s engagement of Head Teachers for business not proper to their duty as teachers. These things are pointed out with the intention of providing a better understanding of lawful property ownership, the right conduct of head teachers and policy under which our schools are supposed to operate, and respect for proper channels of communication over the next five years. He finishes this section with the following:
……I am hearing murmurings from your supporters on FACEBOOK since your re-election of an education plan for the district that would see feeder 7&8 top-up schools at Jongai-Woitape-Ononge-Fane-Tapini. This is despite the fact that it has been made abundantly clear to you of the current district education plan whereby schools operate from Grades 1-6 with students feeding into Grade 7 at Sacred Heart High School for G 7-12. This to us is the only viable option given the lack of resources (especially teachers) and infrastructure to provide a quality education for our children. Grade 7 & 8 top-ups at Woitape, Ononge and Omu in the past when the ’97 Education Reform was first introduced proved to be a dismal failure. We will not be repeating past mistakes, and our schools in our main centres will not be topping up for G 7&8. The plan we have in place now incorporates the new structure of 1-6-6 (Elementary-Primary-Secondary), and allows for the sensible, sequential building up of what is a fragile system of education in the district.
My challenge to you, the LLG President for Woitape and others is that if you wish to provide opportunity for students to access 7&8 in the Woitape area, why not go the whole way and provide opportunity for Grade 7-10 with the establishment of a Government run high school on the sight of the defunct Vocational School at Woitape. The land is Government owned. There is facility already there that could be utilised. If you really want this, then take it on. You put in the money and resource required to build this school, and take ownership of it. But please do not come up with ill thought out plans in isolation, that concern the schools of our Agency. Plans that will not work, which will place an extra burden on the Church and strain the limited resources under which we now operate.
I point out that any 5 Year Development Plan for the Goilala District needs to have input from the Diocese of Bereina being the service provider for education and health services in the district if any such plan is to touch reality. If it is just another 5 Year Plan thought out by district officers operating in isolation to development partners in Port Moresby then it is doomed for failure.
The letter concludes by highlighting a number of other pressing matters which the Bishop wishes to discuss with the Member:
DSIP Funding for teacher and nurse training in 2018.
G11 intake into Sacred Heart High School – Tapini for 2018.
Teacher deployment to Goilala ports for the commencement of the 2018 academic year.
And it is signed as follows:
+Rochus J Tatamai msc
Bishop of Bereina
After my experience this afternoon outside the gates of Pangu Party HQ trying to deliver this letter from the Bishop, and the silence-quiet-absence of the Member since his re-election in August I am left wondering what is going on? Please Member, have the courtesy to speak to your main development partner in Goilala.
Fr Brian Cahill msc PP
Catholic Church Tapini